Ignorance is Bliss

Reading George Will’s column in the Washington Post, a funny thing happened. I found myself agreeing with him. He writes in response to a survey:

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals — in all income groups. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves “very happy,” only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared with 47 percent of conservative Republicans. This finding is niftily self-reinforcing: It depresses liberals.

I don’t have trouble believing this. Liberal Democrats have to deal with reality as it is, not as they wish it to be. Not to mention that, and here I speak from personal experience, having to sit through a State of the Union address that actually mentioned the urgent problem of human animal hybrids did not make me particularly happy. In other words, I don’t see a huge amount in the world to be happy about. I would call this perceptiveness. Will, however, has a slightly different theory:

Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. . . . Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile — touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Watch carefully. Will’s argument could be restated as:

  • Conservatives acknowledge that things are very complicated
  • This complexity means that it’s awfully hard to tell what results will obtain from a given action
  • Therefore, big government is bad

While this argument is delightfully old-school conservative (never touch the machine! Who knows what might happen!), I don’t think it actually makes any logical sense. Luckily, Will clarifies his statement in the next graf:

Conservatives’ pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised — they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes — government — they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity — it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.

But George, I thought it was hard to tell what the results of things were going to be? How, then, are Conservatives “right more often” than they are wrong? That’s only true if you assume they are making some vague, non-predictive guess, like, “the outcome of Medicare Part D is likely to be complicated.” Well, duh. I’m not sure that’s “right” in any meaningful way.

Will has discovered something that I’ve mentioned before though: Conservatives need not be bound by evidence. Will’s argument here is that Conservatives are happier because they’ve decided that it’s impossible to enact meaningful, positive change in the world. Barring that, they pursue happiness in the self-serving, small-minded way that remains–by enjoying luxuries and advancing their own personal standing in the world. He concludes with a list of the things that Liberals fail to enjoy, assumedly implying that Conservatives are happier because they can derive pleasure from immediate sources while pretending that the larger system in which they operate is so complex that it is pointless to wonder about any impact upon it:

But, then, conscientious liberals cannot enjoy automobiles because there is global warming to worry about, and the perils of corporate-driven consumerism, which is the handmaiden of bourgeoisie materialism. And high-powered cars (how many liberals drive Corvettes?) are metaphors (for America’s reckless foreign policy, for machismo rampant, etc.). And then there is — was — all that rustic beauty paved over for highways. (And for those giant parking lots at exurban mega-churches. The less said about them the better.) And automobiles discourage the egalitarian enjoyment of mass transit. And automobiles, by facilitating suburban sprawl, deny sprawl’s victims — that word must make an appearance in liberal laments; and lament is what liberals do — the uplifting communitarian experience of high-density living. And automobiles . . .

I mean, all of that is true, but Liberals worry about those things because those things are worth worrying about! We all live on Earth, after all, and the health of our planet has been declining lately.

Will’s column is a mirror for my own thoughts. In his mind, being happy justifies what you do, which is an ironic twist on the old chestnut they’re always tossing at liberals: that we promote a do-what-feels-good mentality. What other way can we read Will’s column? He concludes with a clever

You see? Liberalism is a complicated and exacting, not to say grim and scolding, creed. And not one conducive to happiness.

Sure. But being happy doesn’t make you right, and being clever doesn’t either. I’ll take an ideology that acknowledges the challenges we face, and that requires us to search for solutions, over an ideology that obviates any need to do so because doing so would be complicated.

Thoughts on Religion

At first, this disturbing article seemed like a good entry point to talk about the ways that religious belief can inspire people to believe things that are not 100% correlated with reality. Since religions basically instruct people to believe things that are not supported by evidence, it does often have the effect, and I do think that is troubling. However, as I thought more about this

Dena Schlosser saw a TV news story about a boy being mauled by a lion and thought it was a sign of the apocalypse, a delusion that led her to sever the arms of her baby, David Self said.

It occurred to me that things like this would probably happen no matter what the religio-cultural atmosphere. One could make an argument that in an atheistic, rational society, where crazy ideas like this were confronted and erased, it might be less likely to occur. In our society the statement, “God speaks to me,” would not be evaluated as dangerously insane, despite the fact that, on the face of it, it is crazy. Insanity, however, has been with us for a longer time than any of our current religions, so in this case I’ll just mourn the tragedy and hope that the mother can find some peace.

Late Term Abortion Case

Well, CNN is reporting that the late-term abortion case is going to go before the Supreme Court in the fall. Last we saw, this ridiculous law had been overturned:

A federal appeals court had ruled against the government, saying the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003 was unconstitutional because it did not provide a health exception to pregnant women facing a medical emergency

Indeed, this is not even the first time a law has had trouble for the same reason:

In 2000, the justices threw out Nebraska’s version banning the “partial birth” procedure. Using an earlier legal standard, the court concluded 5-4 that the state law was an “undue burden” on women because it lacked the critical health exception.

Despite that ruling, the Republican-controlled Congress — backed by the Bush White House — passed its own version three years later.

So why is the Supreme Court even hearing this case? Well, because the Justice Department told them to:

On the federal late-term abortion law, the Justice Department urged the justices to accept the case, saying the lower courts viewed the issue incorrectly.

“That decision overrides Congress’s carefully considered finding, following nine years of hearings and debates, that partial-birth abortion is never necessary to preserve a mother’s health,” Solicitor General Paul Clement said in a legal brief.

What arrogance! How can they say something will never be necessary? Really, not even in one possible instance? Incredible. These decisions should be left to a doctor and a patient, who are in a much better position to know the risks in a given situation that legislators in a far-off city.

Which is exactly what Cecile Richards, President of The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had to say:

“Health-care decisions should be made by women, with their doctors and families — not politicians,” Richards added. “Lawmakers should stop playing politics with women’s health and lives.”

Sounds pretty good to me. Aren’t conservatives supposed to keep their noses out of other people’s business? I know, I know, abortion is murder. However, as I’ve written about before, the uncertainty about the status of a fetus means the final decision should be made between a woman and her doctor. Laws that prevent that freedom are unconstitutional and offensive to the spirit of our nation.

Ferrer speaks about NYC Mayoral Election

This American Prospect Article really made me think. Ferrer’s assertions about the way the media treated him, and about the influence of money on the race, resonated with my memory of the campaign. As I thought more about the money issue in particular, I began to wonder why it is legal for different sides of an election to have huge funding disparities. Ferrer puts it this way:

Ferrer’s case is this: Bloomberg’s astronomical spending, left unchecked by the failure of the civic elites to seriously criticize those record expenditures, helped create an atmosphere in which press coverage of Ferrer’s campaign was relentlessly, at times comically, unbalanced

Ferrer estimates that Bloomberg spent $85 million on the campaign. He goes on in the article to detail the ways in which his campaign was crippled and, finally, defeated by the Bloomberg machine. I remember all this because I live in New York City. I remember the Bloomberg advertisements that started running long before the election. I remember the sense of inevitability surrounding a Bloomberg victory. But in this article, Ferrer describes these events in a way that makes clear the larger whole: Bloomberg bought the election, and as the party that always loses the fundraising battle, Democrats should understand how this happened.

Ferrer mentions this specific result of the spending imbalance:

Bloomberg’s well-funded opposition research team was very successful in getting the press to question every assertion Ferrer made. The result, Ferrer says, is that his aides would insist on getting ironclad proof of everything he wanted to say, no matter how inconsequential

This obviously presents a huge problem for a campaign. The fact that it was an asymmetric problem creates a hugely unfair environment, one that springs directly from one side having more money than the other, and one that does not allow for a fair election. I remember the campaign. Bloomberg could pretty much say whatever he wanted, while Ferrer always ended up looking sheepish or silly. Now I know why: the press made him look that way. Indeed, Ferrer clarifies:

What happened was the Bloomberg campaign shoved a daily load of opposition tidbits down the throats of everyone in the press until it was coming out of their ears. My campaign had to be completely defensive–The story got told their way.

Bloomberg was able to purchase the high ground. Once there, he could count on the media playing within the lines of the narrative, which led to stories like the one Ferrer mentiones here:

Ferrer points to several examples of what he sees as unbalanced coverage. One he cites is a front-page New York Times piece headlined, “Clintons give Ferrer a hand while staying at arm’s length.” The piece, which reported that the Clintons were subtly distancing themselves from Ferrer’s floundering candidacy, infuriated some in Hillary’s camp who argued that she’d done far more for Ferrer than any other Dem. And Ferrer points out that not a single Ferrer adviser or supporter was quoted complaining about the Clintons’ supposed distance-keeping — either on or off the record.

I remember this news story well, and I was surprised at the Times. As Ferrer said, there didn’t seem to be any evidence to support the headline. The article neutralized what could have been an energizing moment for Ferrer. Similarly, when Bloomberg neutralized another moment, the media did not seem very curious:

the media refused to ask tough questions when Bloomberg issued a terror alert on the same day that a debate that he was skipping was scheduled to take place. The alert distracted the city from the mayor’s biggest campaign misstep, raising questions about its timing that Ferrer maintains should have been pursued more aggressively. “The press wouldn’t go there,” he says.

Remind you of anyone? I was offended by this Rovian tactic as well, and I was surprised that the news people didn’t seem too interested in rocking the boat.

Armando at Daily Kos has noted that race was a factor in this election, which is no doubt true, but this has never stuck as a comfortable explanation of the Bloomberg invincibility factor by itself. In the days before the vote there was a pervasive feeling that Bloomberg was going to trounce Ferrer. I don’t think this came from racism alone; rather, it came from money. Money used to create the playing field, and money used to manipulate it. How else to put it?

This comes as little surprise, although it does serve to tie together the various threads of the Ferrer campaign’s loss. For our nation, though, the relevant question is: Is this a good way to run an election? After all, when one side of the debate can’t even get past the starting line, it doesn’t seem to be offering much choice to the people.

Consider Bush vs. Kerry. Neither of them took federal financing for the first part of their campaign. Happily, Kerry had a lot of money, so Bush didn’t get a giant head start. But should a candidate have to be a multi-millionaire just to run?

Dollars have replaced votes in our nation. This is bad for us because the Republicans have more of it. Meanwhile, as Matt Yglesias noted over at TAPPED there is not that much money in politics generally, so business interests can invest a modest amount in political races and net huge gains. All bad and anti-democratic.

So why not a universal campaign finance system where all campaigns are given equal amounts by the government, and that’s it? The ideas can fight on equal footing. I know this proposal offends people who think of money as speech, but money is not speech. Speech is. If I support a candidate, I can volunteer, or I can talk her up to my friends. I’m tired of people being able to buy elections. Even though it helps us from time to time (ahem Corzine) it is a losing strategy for us in the long run.

Top Ten Worst Presidential Mistakes

I noticed an AP article on the CNN website, and reading it made me tilt my head to the side and, like C & C music factory used to say, go hmm. The strange feeling began with the first paragraph:

From engaging in sexual relations with an intern to letting the Vietnam War escalate, U.S. presidents have been blamed for some egregious errors.

I think we all know who that opening refers to. The total incongruity, in terms of scale and consequences, between “letting the Vietnam War escalate” and “engaging in sexual relations with an intern,” gives me pause. Placing Bill Clinton’s escapade at the very beginng of an article about the worst presidential mistakes in history? Surely you jest.

The worst mistake belongs to “President James Buchanan, for failing to avert the Civil War.” Fair enough. That war sucked, for sure. I don’t know enough about Civil War history to know if he could have done anything, but whatever.

According to the article, “The second worst mistake . . . was Andrew Johnson’s decision just after the Civil War to side with Southern whites and oppose improvements in justice for Southern blacks beyond abolishing slavery.” Well, I think that’s one we can all agree with.

Then we revisit the opening mystery with this set of grafs:

Lyndon Johnson earned the No. 3 spot by allowing the Vietnam War to intensify, Gregg said.

Where does Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal rank? Many scholars said it belonged at No. 10, saying that it probably affected Clinton’s presidency more than it did American history and the public.

If you’re like me, your head is tilting at a dangerous angle at this point. The Vietnam War was really horrible in a lot of ways and all that. What justifies immediately interpolating Clinton’s pants-free adventure right after it? No justification can be found in the scholars’ response. If it “probably affected Clinton’s presidency more than it did American history” then what the hell is it doing on the list at all? What distinguishes it from all the other (assumedly more numerous than we know) private sexual forays of other presidents?

Here’s the rest of the list:

4: Woodrow Wilson’s refusal to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

5: Richard Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up.

6: James Madison’s failure to keep the United States out of the War of 1812 with Britain.

7: Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807, a self-imposed prohibition on trade with Europe during the Napoleonic Wars.

8: John F. Kennedy allowing the Bay of Pigs Invasion that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

9: Ronald Reagan and the Iran-Contra Affair, the effort to sell arms to Iran and use the money to finance an armed anti-communist group in Nicaragua.

You’ll notice here that not only was Clinton in the lede of the article, but his was the only “mistake” mentioned out of order twice, to place it in a position of greater prominence. Why is this AP writer trying to (ahem) insert Clinton where he clearly does not belong? It could be to get readers attention with a more current figure.

Which immediately made me think: What other current Presidential types have made mistakes that were more important than Clinton’s? I’ll give you a second. Here are a few hints: he let 9-11 happen, he went to war on false pretences, and, in the immortal words of Amy Poehler (via SNL’s Weekend Update) he let people drown when it rained (you know, in New Orleans).

Where the hell was George W. Bush? No mention whatsoever. Not even something like “we didn’t think it was appropriate to ask about the current guy,” or something, which would have been cowardly but at least forthright. This is just inexcusable. Luckily, there is a poll that asks which was the worst blunder of these three: Buchanan / Civil War, Nixon / Watergate, or Clinton / Lewinsky, and Clinton is at 25% We can do something about that.

President Bush Off the Deep End

On February 17th, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, said the follwing during a discussion on the war on terror:

I knew we’re at war when they attacked us. As a matter of fact, I was down here in Florida. It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on. And I vowed that day that I would not rest, so long as I was the President, in protecting the people. So a lot of my decision-making is based upon the attack. And I know we’re at war, see — I knew it then, and the enemy has, unfortunately, proved me right because they continue to attack. In order to win the war against the enemy you got to understand the nature of the enemy.

Where to begin? This sounds like the ravings of a madman. I remember 9-11, and it seemed to take the President quite a long time to figure out what was going on. What enemy? Who continues to attack? What is he talking about?

While it would be easy (and fun!) to marvel at such fundamentally unhinged talk, it does occur to me that there are deeper issues at work here, examination of which can give us clues to some Republican strengths, and how to defeat them.

Bush continued in that speech:

First of all, these people are cold-blooded killers, people who will kill the innocent in order to achieve a tactical objective and a strategic objective. They have no conscience. You can’t negotiate with these people. You cannot reason with them. You must bring them to justice.

Still no idea who “they” are. Not really a surprise, since Bush thinks the enemy is, well, whoever he thinks it is. But underneath the silliness lurks a distressing truth. Anyone who has read Chris Hedges’ excellent book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, will remember the point he makes about victimhood. He describes how every side in a conflict seeks to position itself as the victim. That way, any actions they take can be justified because they were taken in self-defense. Bush is performing this maneuver by the book.

It is true we were attacked on 9-11. Bush transfers all the victimhood of that event into an incoherent set of ideas about some “they” who are out there, bloodthirsty and relentless, waiting to victimize us. Obviously, he intends this blanket to cover the Iraq War as well, even though, in that instance, no Iraqi involvement in 9-11 was ever demonstrated. By portraying the US as perpetually about to be victimized again, almost anything can be justified.

There was a creepier instance of this dynamic during the audience Q & A. As you know, audiences at Bush appearances are screened to ensure sympathy and applause, so softballs and compliments are not surprising. One question, though, did surprise me:

Q: We appreciate it. How do you — earlier you shared with us some intimacy about how you make decisions, and I felt that was heartfelt. How do you keep it together? What do you really think about when the biggest story this week was Dick Cheney’s hunting trip, and not Al Gore blasting our troops and being treasonous in his regard to this war on terror in the Middle East? (Applause.) How do you keep it together?

Don’t you see? The media is victimizing Republicans all the time! Imagine, covering a story about the current vice president possibly committing a crime, over a private citizen giving a speech on another continent! How dare they? If you don’t believe me, the President’s answer has a key phrase about the media’s victimization of Republicans:

So to answer your question — and I appreciate that — first, I’m wise enough not to fall into your trap because — (laughter) — there are some keen reporters paying attention to every word I’m saying. (Laughter.) But I really don’t let that bother me. I got my perspective, and I got my priorities. My faith is a priority. My family is a priority. And — (applause.)

Ha ha! Of course he can’t answer your question. There’s reporters listening. Never mind that reporters represent the people, and work to disseminate the information necessary to be an informed citizen. They’re bad, one assumes, because they might spread dissent, which is also bad, because if you don’t believe in the president, how will you know who the enemies are?

The very way that Bush’s operation sets up these appearances shows a paranoid sense of imminent victimhood. I mean, he’s supposed to be the President of all citizens, isn’t he? So why won’t he speak in front of them? Under the current system, you get ridiculous insanity like this:

Q: Thank you for being our President. We are all way better off and very safe —

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks. My high honor, by the way. (Applause.)

Well great! I’m glad they can fill a room with morons! This Republican party is starting to behave like a separate population, feeling victimized by the culture, the media, the government, until it justifies anything in retaliation. The fact that it is all made up does not matter. My friend and I were talking the other day about whether the Republicans would accept a Democrat President. We weren’t sure, and it dawned on me that I’m not sure how seriously the Republicans take their duty as citizens if the people they want are not in charge. Scary stuff.

We must break apart these invented structures of victimhood. The only way this will happen is by questioning the vague assertions that we are fighting a ruthless enemy, or that 9-11 changed everything. We must get rid of this stupid term, the War on Terror. And we must force the Republicans to reconcile with reality, or else we face a dark path.

Glacial Melting Accelerates

Here’s some good news:

Greenland’s glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly the Earth’s oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday.

Well, it’s always good to read something like that. The article continues:

The scientists said they do not yet understand the precise mechanism causing glaciers to flow and melt more rapidly, but they said the changes in Greenland were unambiguous — and accelerating

Incidentally, the first bit of that quote is where the Republicans will most likely focus. In their playbook, any time scientists do not know the reason for something, that means the thing may as well not be occurring. They fail to differentiate between, on the one hand, observing evidence, and, on the other, formulating a theory that coherently accounts for that evidence while making testable and accurate predictions about future results. Even though what is happening is abundantly, painfully clear:

The Greenland study is the latest of several in recent months that have found evidence that rising temperatures are affecting not only Earth’s ice sheets but also such things as plant and animal habitats, the health of coral reefs, hurricane severity, droughts, and globe-girdling currents that drive regional climates.

These types of things ought to be of concern to our leaders, don’t you think? And you are wrong. From the President, we get this totally insane approach to dealing with climate change:

Addressing global climate change will require a sustained effort, over many generations. My approach recognizes that sustained economic growth is the solution, not the problem–because a nation that grows its economy is a nation that can afford investments in efficiency, new technologies, and a cleaner environment.

Right. The solution is definitely not to stop putting so much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. Who could disagree with growing our domestic economy as a way of limiting our impact on the planet? You know, besides literally anyone with a functioning brain. In case we forget, the Washington Post article cited above reminds us that

Most climate scientists believe a major cause for Earth’s warming climate is increased emissions of greenhouse gases as a result of burning fossil fuels, largely in the United States and other wealthy, industrialized nations such as those of western Europe but increasingly in rapidly developing nations such as China and India as well. Carbon dioxide and several other gases trap the sun’s heat and raise atmospheric temperature.

So, the White House approach seems to be exactly wrong. What else is new? How does the White House justify this ridiculousness? With a weird piece of invented jargon:

The President’s Yardstick “Greenhouse Gas Intensity” is a Better Way to Measure Progress Without Hurting Growth. A goal expressed in terms of declining greenhouse gas intensity, measuring greenhouse gas emissions relative to economic activity, quantifies our effort to reduce emissions through conservation, adoption of cleaner, more efficient, and emission-reducing technologies, and sequestration. At the same time, an intensity goal accommodates economic growth.

Translation: We don’t want to prevent people from doing anything they want in the quest for more money. Read the quote again if your head didn’t explode. This is how we measure our greenhouse gas output? In relation to economic growth? I wonder if those glaciers care how our economy is doing. How convenient that, by this standard, as long as our emissions were increasing at a slower rate than our economy, we are doing a great job! I guess we can all sleep tight.


The data highlight the lack of meaningful U.S. policy, [Vicki Arroyo] added: “This is the kind of study that should make people stay awake at night wondering what we’re doing to the climate, how we’re shaping the planet for future generations and, especially, what we can do about it.”

Well darn. I guess it might be a good idea to do a little something about it then.

The Case of Facts v. Bush

One thing that makes arguing with Republicans so hard is that they don’t seem to care that much about the facts. Even though we all inhabit the reality-based community, they apparently do not. It’s like beating your head against the wall–if the wall wanted to rework the Bill of Rights and legislate everyone’s personal ethical choices for them. The brutal effectiveness of telling people they don’t need to worry about the facts, thus freeing everyone to basically do whatever they like, has been demonstrated in the last few elections.

There is, however, an Achilles Heel to this irritating Right Wing tactic. Clues like the existence of the Discovery Institute (Challenging Darwin’s Theory of Evolution), the promulgation of the “just a theory” meme, and the endless repetition of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous quote, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” actually serve to demonstrate that facts do still matter. That’s why Republicans exert so much effort to confuse issues and character assassinate their critics: they know that authoritative facts are their enemy, and our ally.

The Case of Global Climate Change


Global Warming

Study this graph. Do you notice anything about it? For example, it has what we might call an upward trend. A rather striking one at that. This graph shows that the global temperature has been above its 30 year mean by increasing amounts for the last sixty years or so. You’d think, then, that the claim that the globe is getting warmer would be obvious. Yet we see that Republicans are not interested in doing anything about it.

The secret is this: they rarely dispute that the temperature has been warming lately. Instead, they obfuscate, and talk about warming cycles, and solar radiation, and natural variance, and a bunch of other invented jargon that makes it seem so boring and complicated that no one remembers what they were talking about in the first place. Republicans know that they don’t have to win the argument, they just have to make it so complicated that people decide it’s okay to just keep doing what they are doing.

The Case of the Iraq War


I created this graph with data from the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website. Now, George W. Bush said, in the 2006 State of the Union,

I am confident in our plan for victory; I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people; I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.

Umm, how are we winning? Certainly not in the sense of reducing our casualties in any meaningful way. Indeed, as above, the Republicans can’t fight the facts directly, so they obfuscate and confuse the issue by citing the brutality of the enemy, or the virtuousness of our struggle, or, sometimes, the traitorousness of dissent. Yet the fact remains, they avoid a head on conforntation with the facts, and just do what they can to muddy up the issues so that people don’t know one way or the other.

Counter Strategy

The solution to this problem, in my opinion, is to step back from the wall. Wipe the blood and sweat from our foreheads. When you think about it, the facts are overwhelmingly liberal. No one wants to privatize Social Security. Everyone wants the government to make an effort to help them if there is a natural disaster. The War in Iraq was a mistake and people know it.

We do them a favor when we keep trying to debate the facts. All they have to do is make everything seem confusing until the viewer changes the channel. We have to short-circuit their tactic by granting that they may be right. We know they are not, but that’s not the point. Once we grant that they may be right, we can use the power of the facts to make a pretty strong case anyway. Imagine this hypothetical talking heads exchange on TV:

Liberal: You know, I think Global Warming might be–

Republican: (interrupting) That’s all just junk science and you know it. You know it! Dr. Chester Fothergill has shown this just to be the result of cosmic radiation.

Liberal: You may be right. The climate is a complex thing. But I know that the weight of the facts we have now implies we might be headed for trouble, and over 90% of climatologists agree. If I take my car to the shop and 90% of the mechanics tell me I’ve got a serious problem, I don’t think I’d just drive away with a smile. Would you?

Republican: Well, I, I mean, cars are complicated, and, and ERROR FUNCTION NOT FOUND


Liberal: (Wipes brain goo off face)

See, isn’t that fun? I really think this is a strategy that could work.

And as thanks for staying with me to the end, here’s a final graph:

Bush Approval


What’s that? Why, it’s George W. Bush’s plummeting popularity. That’s a fact we can all be happy with.

Frist: Fuck You, America

This article just posted on the New York Times features a few really amazing dick moves from Bill Frist.

Four cabinet secretaries, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an Army general and the secretary of the Army were supposed to testify Tuesday morning at hearings on matters including Hurricane Katrina and the Bush administration’s proposed budget for foreign affairs.

But their invitations were rescinded and the hearings canceled when the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, scheduled a marathon series of 16 votes on amendments to a pending tax bill–all of them, both parties agree, intended more to score political points than to make policy.

Ultimately, most of those votes were canceled.

Bill Frist is getting it done to the max! By it, of course, I am not referring to the business of governing our great nation, but instead to subverting the people’s house to serve the ends of his political party. It gets better though. Those cancelled votes? Well

They could have been held Monday night, but that did not work for Mr. Frist. He was holding a fund-raiser at his Washington home, with President Bush as the featured guest and some of his Republican colleagues on the guest list, including the Senate whip, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The event raised $3.5 million for Republican Senate candidates.

Oh, I see. He had a prior commitment. Perfectly understandable. Not.

One Senator had this to say:

“The Senate continues to fiddle while Rome burns,” he said in a long speech on Monday afternoon on the Senate floor. He complained that the Senate had previously voted on similar Democratic amendments and urged Republican leaders to “get a grip on this situation.”

Who was that? Why it was Trent Fucking Lott! If he thinks you’re doing a shitty job running things, you are really doing a shitty job running things!

The article goes on to say that things more or less got back on track eventually, and that both parties were at fault (aren’t they always?).(No). Ahh, balance.

A nice money quote to finish the article, though:

Still, the changes created confusion. Mr. Reid was asked if a business could be run like the Senate is. “Yeah,” he replied, “but not very well.”

Cheney: Let’s Keep Our Eye on the Ball

Did you hear about how Cheney shot that lawyer he was hunting with? Really? Where did you hear about it? Oh, that’s right, absolutely everywhere on earth. I get that this is an important story, a story with legs, as they say, because it has all the theatrical elements the SCLM needs to pump up their ratings. Guns, intrigue, fowl foul play–it’s fun. It gives people an opportunity to tie in some broad themes, like in this AP story:

The shooting presents a new problem for the White House as it seeks to repair damaged credibility in a midterm election year in which continued GOP control of Congress hangs in the balance.

Of course, everything is couched in terms of political tactics rather than actual facts, but that’s par for the course. It strikes me, though, that, just before this quail of a story broke, there was another Cheney related development of import. One that related to a heinous crime committed for devious purposes. One that concerned a certain NOC agent named Valerie. From a CBS news story(February 9th):

Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who’s been indicted in the CIA leak investigation, testified that his “superiors” authorized him to leak classified information to reporters.

That’s a huge deal. Remember how revved up we were all getting over that? Libby’s superiors, well, gosh, that must be Cheney! Fitzmas Redux, get the popcorn! Then Cheney shot a guy and the attention-span challenged SCLM dropped that story like a bad habit. There is an upside, though, in that having Cheney in the public eye at all is good. After all, as the AP story above mentions:

Cheney, 65, whose ”favorable” rating was just 24 percent in a recent CBS-New York Times poll, has found himself in other storms swirling around the Bush presidency.

Wow, 24 percent is terrible. I suppose I should be thrilled he’s on TV at all.